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Barbie (2023): A Smart Story from a Dumb Concept

Barbie movie poster

I’ll be the first to say it, I sort of rolled my eyes at the idea of a Barbie movie, even with indie darling Greta Gerwig directing and Margot Robbie as our titular doll. Since many, if not all, movies based on toys are pretty terrible, if not atrocious (looking at you Garbage Pail Kids). Although I should have some faith in it since The Lego Movie was phenomenal from start to finish. So the film that pretty much destroyed Oppenheimer at the box office and helped bring back the summer blockbuster for 2023 is the probable future best picture nominee, Barbie.

In Barbieland, All Barbies live in harmony with all the Kens, and Allen (played by Michael Cera). During one of Stereotypical Barbie’s (played by Margot Robbie) parties she begins to have an existential crisis. Which begins to affect her day to day as well as her physical appearance. At the behest of Weird Barbie (played by Kate McKinnon), she must travel to the real world to find Gloria (played by America Ferrera), the woman playing with Stereotypical Barbie’s doll, and her daughter Sasha (played by Ariana Greenblatt). With Ken (played by Ryan Gosling) along for the ride, Barbie must discover what is happening to her before it's too late.


Margot Robbie in Barbie 2023

First off, casting is perfect! Margot Robbie as Stereotypical Barbie is phenomenal along with Ryan Gosling as Ken. Both settle into their roles beautifully and bring a ton of humanity to what could’ve been a joke of a role. Not to mention the rest of the cast as Barbies and Kens, with Issa Rae, Emma Mackey, Alexandra Shipp as different versions of Barbie, even bringing in Dua Lipa as a Mermaid Barbie for a surprising cameo; then the Kens led by Gosling along with Simu Liu, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Scott Evans, Ncuti Gatwa, and even John Cena for a cameo. They all felt so distinct from one another and easy to tell apart as everyone got called Barbie or Ken. Oh and Michael Cera as Allan was just the cherry on top of this perfect cast. Along with Will Ferrell as President Business, I mean Mattel CEO.

Robbie, Gosling, Ferrara, McKinnon, and Cera are standout performances of this standout cast. With both Robbie and Gosling they bring different versions of naivety to their roles as they try to discover what they want to be, as well as seeing the real world is much worse than their Barbieland, but by the end learning to be alright in their own skins. Ferrara was the heart of this film as she brought the struggle of being a woman in today’s world to life and that heart shined through with a show stopping monologue in the 3rd Act. McKinnon was literally being herself as Weird Barbie, kenough said there. And Michael Cera as Allan was just a chef’s kiss bringing his typical quirkiness to a supporting character that would fit well in other of Cera’s films like Superbad or Juno.


Barbieland in Barbie 2023

Everyone was able to bring their own comedic style to the film as well with particular shout outs to Ryan Gosling and Kingsley Ben-Adir as this was a surprisingly hilarious duo and never ceased to keep me from laughing. Along with Ryan Gosling embodying Ken with his improv of the now meme “SUBLIME”.

The script really knew what it was doing, Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach wrote an impressively hilarious and insightful script about the effects of both matriarchy and patriarchy in a way that took itself seriously while being bundled under layered jokes. It also was able to shoutout previous Mattel and Barbie products in a self-deprecating way which I'm sure Mattel was 100% behind. But its commentary of matriarchy and patriarchy as well as themes of the human condition really shine through with help from Gerwig’s fearless direction, calling out both sides of the aisle in a way that criticizes both without taking sides. But at its core, it’s a story about what the human condition means to somebody. As the struggles, thrills, and hardships are on full display throughout Barbie and it leaves you thinking about how you could proceed forward with your life.


Ryan Gosling and Simu Liu in Barbie 2023

I also need to mention the songs in Barbie, we had 3 original songs that are bond to become some sort of classic in the future. We were given the highly danceable “Dance the Night Away” by Dua Lipa early on. Billie Eilish’s emotional “What Was I Made For” at the climax, but my personal favorite and ear worm “I’m Just Ken'' which was sung by all the Kens in the cast led by Ryan Gosling. I was laughing so hard during this song but it is so memorable knowing when this song happened. I also hope to see “I’m Just Ken '' get nominated at award shows because it is that original, but that honor would more than likely go to Billie Eilish which would also be well deserved.

Barbie has no right to be as good as it is, it wasn’t a movie with everything stacked against it, but the concept alone could’ve been mistaken for a dumb cash grab. But with an allstar cast, a hilarious and insightful script, and an above and beyond direction from Greta Gerwig, Barbie managed to exceed all expectations. Beautiful performances across the board, especially from Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, and America Ferrera brought Barbie’s themes on the human condition to life wonderfully. Helping viewers ask the question “What does it mean to be human?” Along with songs that anyone can listen to, especially “I’m just Ken” and “What was I Made For”, Barbie will be a timeless classic for generations to come.


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